I was taken aback as it was pointed out that every single person in the hangout gave no experience points for combat.
The Problem with Experience in a Nutshell
I've talked at length before about why I don't give experience for killing monsters.
I have had conversations about why we should kill someone we've encountered because we'd be letting the experience points go. If we get 600 experience each for killing the bear, then I want to kill the bear. I don't care if it's just minding its own business in the forest.
There are lots of subjective solutions to this problem. That's a problem for me too. I like to have a quantifiable, objective, clear, goal that grants experience. The first time the game has to stop so that someone can tell me what I would or wouldn't do based on my alignment is the last time I'm motivated to continuing to play that game. I'm not playing D&D so someone can tell me what to do.
It's also very important to me that it doesn't dictate in character action, but rather drives creative play. This is why I have a problem with "Get experience for opening this lock/casting healing spells/killing this monster." And not, say "You get double experience for any treasure you secretly hide from the party if you're a rogue and you get experience points for gold."*
|This is even more distasteful to me when the action the character is forced to commit is a subjective one, e.g. "Uphold your religion." The only way I know if I've done that is if I ask the Dungeon Master. If it's just a tithe and spending time preaching what's the cost? If it's actions in play, then I either have to act, uncertain of what the Dungeon Master considers "upholding my religion" or ask him what I should do.||
But the new Dungeons and Dragons gives experience points for fighting. Is there a way to handle this player expectation objectively? A simple metric where they get experience points for enemies, and not for slaying various wildlife creatures? Perhaps one that encourages creative play?
The Case In Point
Some of this requires a bit of worldbuilding. Certain threats in a heroic style game like fifth edition supports should be slain without question. Others, such as the Red Wizard at the Old Owl Well should not be slain without question. We don't want to punish combat in this instance, but we do want to provide an alternate method of earning experience without encouraging characters to engage in unnecessary combat.
It's an excellent example. If you were players, after finding the wizard and completing his quests, there is no mechanical reason not to kill him and a very good mechanical reason to kill him**. My Lawful or Chaotic Good fighter uses some rationalization to kill someone who has committed no crime because -- what? He decided?
Necromancy is not a crime in the realms. Really. Dungeons and Dragons Basic rules notes that Raising Undead isn't a good act and isn't done frequently by good people. That doesn't mean people should be executed for raising undead. In moments someone brings the objective or subjectiveness badness of raising undead and then. . .
My problem here is that this discussion solely to find a diegetic reason to kill an opponent so you can get the experience occurs. I don't want to have this discussion. I want to play D&D. I want it to be clear what you are rewarded for and I want that to integrate seamlessly with the mechanics to avoid diegetic discussions ("Well, I want to take this action, but why would my character?")
Hence Objectivity. Hence Objective Evil. Hence Factions.
Here is the outline for Old School Style Objective Experience in fifth edition. Note my use of the optional experience points for gold option granted in the Dungeon Masters Guide.
Old School Style Experience For Fightan!!!
There are five categories of opponents.
- 1) Monsters are creatures that are objectively evil, irredeemable beasts who only desire the dissolution of all things.
- Which creatures are monsters is dependent on the campaign. Some campaigns might deem orcs as monsters, whereas in the Forgotten Realms they are clearly intelligent opponents with a culture, classifying them as a Faction.
- Natural Creatures, Faction members or Innocents that are hostile, turn hostile, or attack the party first are considered Monsters and grant experience.
- If Natural Creatures that are hostile are released, befriended or neutralized without destroying or killing them double experience is given for good or neutral characters.
- 2) Natural creatures are creatures, plants, constructs, and non-intelligent animals that are part of the ecosystem.
- Killing natural creatures grants no experience.
- 3) Factions are people who belong to certain organizations that you have relationships in certain ways.
- You get no experience for attacking or harming friendly or neutral factions.
- You get listed Monster Experience for killing hostile factions.
- Note: if you attack a neutral faction, you get no experience for killing in that combat, but if the factions bond becomes hostile, then in future combats you will receive the listed monster experience. Note that unlawful killing with malice aforethought makes you a Monster.
- 4) Innocents are non-combatants and non-involved people.
- Killing innocents never grants experience.
- 5) Wonderous Creatures are individual magical beasts or singular unique creatures that do not belong to a faction. No experience is given for slaying such a creature. These are effectiely equivalent to a faction of one.
- This includes such creatures as thinking undead, dragons, sphinxes, and other individual intelligences.
- Alignment does not categorize the creature as a Monster.
- Chaotic creatures are unconcerned with civilization and the rule of order
- Evil creatures are unconcerned with the well-being of other creatures
- Creatures with Blue/Orange morality are treated as unstable factions, where the status of the faction is inconsistent between meetings.
- Outsiders are considered a faction based on their nature and origin to primes.
- Although these are objective realities, they do not consign creatures to being monsters. The following acts do, regardless of the motivation for the act.
- Unlawfully Killing or attacking with malice aforethought members of a Friendly or Neutral factions, Innocents, or animals. Unlawfully means not legally justified murder, killing an animal for food or in self-defense is fine. Malice aforethought exists if a killer intends to kill a person, inflicts serious bodily harm that leads to death, or behavior that exhibits an extreme reckless disregard for human life.
- Trafficking or acting directly as servants for Monsters.
- Intentionally causing severe suffering, such as rape, torture, or other evil acts
- Human laws such as treason, sabotage, fraud, etc. that don't meet the above qualifications may make a person evil and may make them a criminal, but they don't make the person a Monster.
- Experience is given 1:1 for treasure discovered.
- Treasure are non-owned items, trade goods, or coins of significant value.
- Evil creatures receive 5:1 experience for treasure discovered and not shared with companions.
- Experience is given 1:1 + Experience of the monster or hostile faction member for equipment and gear taken.
- Equipment and gear are owned items, trade goods, and coins of significant value from monsters or hostile factions.
- Taking the treasure of a Monster or hostile Faction member grants experience as if the creature were killed, only if the creature was not killed.
- Evil and Neutral creatures and characters receive 2:1 experience for equipment and gear taken from living opponents
- The Listed Experience is given for Hostile Factions or Wondrous creatures that are bypassed or neutralized on a 1:1 basis. If made friendly and neutralized or captured and returned to justice grant experience on a 2:1 basis to good aligned characters.
- Player may at any time be informed of the status of any item or creature by request. ("Is this treasure?" "What type of category does our opponent fall into?")
In this example, the Wizard at the Old Owl well is neutral, and attacking and killing him provides no experience for the fight, though they would receive experience for his treasure after the combat. Stealing the treasure without fighting him would give no experience (taking from a neutral faction) but you'd have the treasure, and if discovered would make him both hostile and likely to attack you. The resulting combat would give you experience for killing him. Of course, you have to commit theft to cause that chain of events to occur.
The Nothic in the Redbrand hideout would be a Hostile Wonderous creature, granting experience if killed, or able to have it's attitude changed to neutral or friendly.
* Obviously there's some ground where "interesting play" is up for debate. For me "Killing a monster" dictates behavior, and isn't particularly interesting play once combat starts. In 4th edition, this might not be the case. "Opening locks" is normally a simple roll, but may be considered interesting play if you have a subsystem with player choice involved.
** It is super-duper important to note here that there may be plenty of non-mechanical reasons I can invent not to kill him, but I'm a firm believer I shouldn't have to fight the mechanics of the game as the Dungeon Master in order to have a non-dissonant play experience. In an old-school game murdering everyone isn't dissonant. It is much so in a big(ish) damn heroes game like 5e set in the forgotten realms.
Hack & Slash
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